Far Cry 3 Video Card Performance and IQ Review

Far Cry 3 is here, and we take a full look at performance and image quality comparing several video cards. We will find out what it takes to run this beast of a game with each video card, how those compare, and look at performance with certain graphics features, and we compare image quality with those features on and off.

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Graphics Settings

Far Cry 3 has many more graphics settings than we've seen in games this fall, thankfully. There are a total of nineteen individual settings in two graphics menus. The menus and explanations of settings are detailed below.

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Display Resolution - You can select the proper resolution, and Eyefinity resolutions are properly supported.

V-Sync - You can disable VSYNC, or select a "1 Frame" or "2 Frame" option. When you select 1 Frame, it locks the fps to the refresh rate of your display, if your display is 60Hz then 60fps is the VSYNC. If you select 2 Frame it enables a double-VSYNC which locks the fps to twice as low. For example, if your refresh rate is 60Hz, then 2 Frames option will lock the framerate to 30 FPS. Why is this useful? It can smooth out performance with multi-GPU configurations if you are experiencing stuttering.

GPU Max Buffered Frames - This is the number of frames the GPU is allowed to buffer. The default option is 1, if you experience stuttering or choppy behavior, you can try 2 or 3 frames.

DirectX - This option lets you select the DX version, ours defaulted properly to DX11. We could only select between DX9 and DX11 on our video cards under Win7.

MSAA Anti-Aliasing - These are the DX11 Multisampling AA options you can enable to reduce aliasing in the game. We can select 2X AA, 4X AA, 8X AA, or Off.

Alpha To Coverage - This is the DX11 filtering applied to alpha textures such as vegetation, trees, foliage, chain link fences, grass, to reduce aliasing. Since this game is made up of a lot of vegetation types, this option has a great impact on visual quality. You can select Off, Standard, or Enhanced qualities.

SSAO Method - This is where you select the DX11 Ambient Occlusion level. SSAO is the lesser level, HBAO is better than SSAO, and HDAO is the best quality option, but also does demand a lot from video card performance.

This game also supports the ability to change the Field of View. All of these options above are very PC specific, and we are glad options like Field of View, Buffered Frames, DX version, AA methods, and AO methods are included. It shows that there was time spent giving PC users useful options.

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On the second graphics menu you will find all the specific quality settings for this game. At the top there is an overall quality option, if you set this to low all the options below it are set to low quality. It has a medium overall setting that sets most of the settings to medium except for textures and ambient lighting, these remain on low. The next setting up is high which sets everything to high except ambient lighting which remains on medium. The next level up is very high, and at very high only shadows, post fx, geometry, and vegetation are set to very high, everything else is left at high. Finally the highest setting is ultra. At ultra it sets shadows, post fx, geometry to ultra, while textures, ambient lighting and terrain and environment are on high and vegetation and water are on very high. These are the highest settings possible.

There is an optimal setting, that sets quality settings to what the game thinks will be playable on your system. Typically these are lower settings representing the very high overall quality option, not ultra. This of course will help with performance, but you won't get the full visual quality possible on optimal. If you want the best settings in the game, leave the overall quality option at ultra.

You can also manually adjust settings if you wish. Textures deal with the quality of textures in the game. Ambient Lighting deals with the environment lighting used in the world. Shadows deal with the quality of shadows cast by everything. Post FX deals with the post processing effects used in the game to give depth, like lens flares, or motion blur, or depth of field. Geometry deals with the overall polygons used on each object. Vegetation deals with the density of vegetation in the world. Terrain deals with the terrain detail distance you see when you look out across the world. Water deals with the water quality, and environment deals with the overall world density in the game.

We never found a need to lower these settings from ultra on any video card, opting instead to lower AA, or Alpha to Coverage, or Ambient Occlusion, or resolution to get the best gameplay experience.

Run-Through

We chose a location on the island with outdoor eye candy including dense vegetation to stress alpha to coverage and ambient occlusion, long distant views, outposts, and enemies firing on us both toward us showing muzzle flash and behind us with all damage being shown. We even take a view at some water, many areas you will encounter in the game are in our run-through, including combat, and is geared to be demanding. There are other open areas that perform better than where we are testing, so consider this a worst case scenario in terms of gaming performance.